Series

Next-Generation CBE: Designing Competency-Based Education for Underprepared College Learners

At a Glance

JFF is leading an effort to explore how CBE can be adapted to meet the needs of underprepared adult learners in order to help members of this group earn college credentials and advance in the US workforce.

Published jun. 06, 2018
Capabilites

Research & Design

Area of Work
  • Ensuring Equity in Advancement

Competency-based education (CBE) is widely viewed as an innovative alternative to traditional higher education, yet most programs serve only a narrow slice of the postsecondary population. Few are intended for adults who need to boost basic skills in order to succeed in college coursework. However, if designed with the needs of a broader range of learners in mind, CBE could be an important piece of the national movement to increase educational access, equity, and credential attainment. This report is the first in a series that will zero in on the critical question of how to adapt CBE in order to expand access and increase success for this large and growing group.

Community colleges are committed to finding effective ways to serve underprepared learners by equipping them with the skills and credentials they need for future employment. In most cases, community colleges attempt to fulfill this mission through developmental education, but that route often can impede or derail the learner's road to college completion.

This series recommends specific features likely to help more underprepared students in competency-based education (CBE) settings master college-ready skills, persist in their postsecondary studies, and ultimately earn credentials.

The Reports

Solving the Four Big Problems Facing CBE for Underprepared College Learners

By Tom Hilliard, Deb Bushway Stephanie Krauss, Nate Anderson

The stakes are high. Currently a tiny fraction of these students ever finishes enough credit-bearing courses to earn a credential, let alone one that leads to a good job. More effective intervention could boost economic advancement for many people, who for a wide variety of reasons enroll in college with below-college skills in reading, writing, or math.

This paper concludes our series by acknowledging—and addressing—the four biggest concerns identified by our research about CBE for underprepared learners. Our research shows that while CBE holds great promise, it can also present barriers to student success.

Full Report

Supporting Success for Underprepared College Learners

By Joe Deegan

Success depends heavily on providing individualized support services to address both academic and non-academic difficulties. The report recommends a comprehensive set of proven supports that can make the difference in a CBE model of remedial education.

This paper concludes our series by acknowledging—and addressing—the four biggest concerns identified by our research about CBE for underprepared learners. Our research shows that while CBE holds great promise, it can also present barriers to student success.

Full Report

Paving the Way: Remaking Entry for Postsecondary Success

By Amy Girardi

This paper focuses on the design elements necessary for effective entry; it examines current intake, placement, and orientation activities in both CBE and community college programs, and highlights the most promising practices. Fusing the best of both program types, it offers recommendations for designing entry to a CBE model shaped specifically for underprepared learners.

Full Report

Building on a Strong Foundation: Linking CBE with Innovations in Developmental Education Redesign

By Nate Anderson

Through developmental redesign efforts, there's now a growing body of research that sheds light on some of the barriers facing underserved learners and proven solutions. Similarly, competency-based education offers great potential to serve underprepared college students—a promising though largely untested approach. JFF proposes merging the best practices of developmental education redesign models with competency-based education (CBE) to increase success for underprepared learners. This paper, which is the second brief of the Next-Generation CBE series, will focus on establishing which developmental education redesign models make the most sense to use to pilot CBE strategies.

Full Report

Next-Generation CBE: Designing Competency-Based Education for Underprepared College Learners

By Amy Girardi and Rachel Crew

Competency-based education is widely viewed as an innovative alternative to traditional higher education, yet most programs serve only a narrow slice of the postsecondary population. Few are intended for adults who need to boost basic skills in order to succeed in college coursework. However, if designed with the needs of a broader range of learners in mind, CBE could be an important piece of the national movement to increase educational access, equity, and credential attainment. This report is the first in a series that will zero in on the critical question of how to adapt CBE in order to expand access and increase success for this large and growing group.

Full Report

Expanding Competency-Based Education for All Learners

By Carol Gerwin

This brief explores the potential of competency-based education to meet the needs of underprepared adult learners who would benefit from a faster route to college completion. Interest in CBE is surging, but most programs serve students who are already well prepared for higher education. JFF is leading an effort to examine how postsecondary CBE models can be designed to better serve low-income, low-skilled adults who are not yet college ready. We kicked off this initiative with a convening of educators, policymakers, and researchers, the results of which are captured in this paper.

Full Report